The voice mail message was from Rosie who plans to come to a one day retreat at our Motherhouse in early November. She was calling me about her friend whom she has invited to join us. There was hesitation in Rosie’s friend. She had no idea what happens at a retreat, so would I please write up a description, send it to Rosie to pass on to her friend. I hit my forehead with the heel of my hand. “Of course! Many of us who are used to the time away called retreat don’t realize that not everyone is familiar with the meaning and process of such a day, nor its benefits for them!” Thus, this week’s blog.
Retreat is a general term which means taking a long look at who I am/who we are and how I am/we are moving on the journey that unfolds as we walk toward the future. Corporate executives retreat, professionals in various fields make a retreat. People searching to know themselves make a retreat. So do those who want to experience/master a discipline of some kind (yoga, qigong, etc.) Not all people who make a retreat have religious motivations. But some do, and I don’t just mean priests, Sisters and those committed to pastoral ministry. I mean ordinary people who have families, are single, young or older. Some people make an annual retreat of a day or more to refresh, regroup their thoughts, look back, look ahead, just be at home with themselves and our God, make room for the Holy Spirit. The retreat is for the participant and his/her relationship with God, whatever that might mean. Sometimes, retreats spin out a particular theme, and people come because the theme resonates with them.
Most of the time, a skilled retreat director guides the event – someone who has experience in working sensitively with people on their life journey. (S)he will walk you through it. Often, retreats offer common times for input by the retreat guide, with breaks to be alone to walk, pray, just be, to empty one’s mind of clutter. Guiding questions/thoughts are often given for follow-up discussion back in the group. During these times of focused conversation, another person may voice what we are thinking, even better than we can. We find that we are not alone in our efforts to become more deeply who we are. We find God embracing us: “Do not be afraid, dear one.” Participants can share as little or as much as they’d like. There is no one way, no preferred way to make a retreat.
What will not happen on retreat? No hard sell on specific ways of thinking. No expectations of a specific outcome or moment of enlightenment, although that could happen. No embarrassing moments where people feel cornered. Mutual respect is the foundation upon which the retreat is built.
“Come to me… and I will refresh you,” Jesus says to His followers (Matthew 11.28) .That sums up a retreat: resting a while with the Lord. When the retreat opportunity comes, hold out your hands, let yourself be led, take in the Spirit, be enriched, be open to the future, which, as the late great Yogi Berra once said, isn’t what it used to be.
~Sister Joan Sobala
PS: Our next retreat day is Saturday, November 7, 10 am to 3 pm at the SSJ Motherhouse. Theme: Becoming More Deeply Who We Are Cost: $35.00, including lunch and materials. If you'd like to go contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (585)- 733-2555